Happy 2016, welcome to the start of a new year. This is a great time to start new projects – be it losing weight, getting fit by regularly exercising, committing to eating right, or improving and growing your photography knowledge and skill.
We all have many different goals when it comes to our passion for photography. A great way to get started is by working on personal and professional photography projects. One simple yet effective way to work on your photography skills is to participate in a 365 Photo Project. Quite simply, a 365, as it is most often called, is a commitment to take a photo a day for 365 days straight. You can get as specific or as general as you like in terms of what you photograph, when you photograph, or even how you photograph. There are no set rules – the only requirement being you must take at least one photo each day, that counts towards your 365.
A small collage from my 365 project done in 2014.
That being said, there are some basic guidelines to successfully complete a 365 – a sort of dos and don’ts list, if you will.
#1 Be honest about why you want to do a 365
Talk to anyone, and you are bound to hear many different reasons why you should do a 365 photo project. Some people feel it improves your photography because you are consistently taking at least one picture a day. Others feel it is a fun way to document and record a year in your life. It is also a great way to experiment and learn about light, composition, subject, equipment, and develop and hone in on your observation skills.
Since you know you have to take at least one photo every day, you are constantly looking for good photo opportunities everywhere, and tend to become more observant of your environment. No matter what your reason, be very clear on exactly why you want to start a 365, and document that as part of the process. This will help clarify your goals, and make the process more enjoyable.
#2 Create a routine for your 365
Just like anything else in life, having a routine provides a sense of organization. Figure out when is your best time to photograph, and stick to that routine. For me, the best time is around 9:00-10:30 a.m. It is early enough in the morning when my brain is quite active, there are no distractions, and the morning light is quite clean and bright. Of course that is not to say that I don’t photograph at other times of the day, but when I am working on a project, or an assignment, that’s my go-to time. And yes, I do treat my 365 as an assignment. The only difference is that I am my own client!
My general task list for my 365 -generally, all it takes is 10 minutes of my time:
- Shoot 365 photo – five minutes
- Edit photo – two minutes
- Load to Dropbox – 30 seconds
- Post on Instagram – 30 seconds
- Write a caption and one line description for the image – one minute
- Add hashtags – one minute
- Total – 10 minutes approximately
#3 Set your own prompts or join a 365 group
In my opinion, this is the hardest part of doing a 365. The proverbial, “What do I photograph?”. Luckily there are so many of us doing 365 projects, that there are online groups you can join to get daily or weekly prompts sent to your inbox. Here are a few:
The other option is to completely customize the project, and work from your own prompts, or inspirational triggers. You might only want to photograph your breakfast, your pet, or your children. You may want to focus on modes of transportation. No matter what the prompt, I recommend creating a list or a journal to document them. That way you know what you have already photographed, and what comes next.
I try to follow this general prompt weekly for my 365. Sometimes, I deviate from it, and for me that’s okay!
- Monday – Inspire
- Tuesday – Food
- Wednesday – Nature of the outdoors
- Thursday – Indoors
- Friday – Family
- Saturday – Personal
- Sunday – Fun day (anything goes)
#4 Choose the tools of the trade
Choose a camera – any camera! If you want to improve on your mobile camera skills go for it. Did you get a new camera for Christmas? Use a 365 photo project as a great way to learn the workings of your new toy. After all, practice makes perfect, and there is nothing like practicing everyday to get you comfortable with using that new camera.
Regardless of what tool you use, makes sure that it is something achievable. I find my DSLR to be cumbersome at times, and not easy to carry around with me for smaller errands in town. So instead, for my 365 photo project, I use a combination of iPhone and DSLR, which gives me the flexibility I need.
The other common question that most people want to know is how to document the project. My 365 medium of choice is Instagram. I love this platform, as it brings forth a great sense of community and creativity. By posting my images, and using the #365 hashtag, I am instantly part of a large group of people who are in the same project. It keeps me motivated and on track. I know a lot of people who post a collage of images on their social media channels, rather than a picture a day. This does not mean they don’t photograph one picture a day, but rather they just share their images once a week, or a month at a time.
These are the only two tools I use for my 365. When an image is from my DSLR, I can use the #dslr365 in Instagram to separate the two (not a required step but I like to do it just for my reference).
#5 Learn to forgive and move on
Who knew that doing a 365 can also be a great way to learn basic life lessons! The age old adage to forgive and forget is very relevant while participating in a 365. Sometimes things happen and you end up missing a day, or several days in a row. It is not the end of the world. Acknowledge it, accept it and move on. Either you can catch up, and post more than one picture the next day, or just mark it off as missed and go forward. The key here is to keep moving forward. Otherwise days turn into weeks, that turn into months, and before you know it, the 365 has long been forgotten and abandoned.
One of my favorites from my last 365. I did miss a few days here and there but the memories that I was able to capture still make me smile to this day!
#6 Success, completion, and what’s next
A 365 photo project is definitely a commitment. One that takes time and effort on your part, but the rewards are quite satisfying. To me, completing a 365 photo project provides a sense of achievement and accomplishment. In my mind it’s not an easy task, and I do celebrate my success!
Print all, or some of your best images, and create a collage of photos. Create a photo book specific to your 365. The possibilities are endless. My 365 photo project lives on my Instagram feed only, and I like printing my favorites. There are several companies that also provide the option of printing Instagram images. I have used Artifact Uprising in the past, but Blurb and Shutterfly are a few other companies that come to mind.
Note: If you use Lightroom you can create a Blurb book and order it directly from within the software, all right from your original camera files.
Once you have completed your 365 photo series, my recommendation would be to take a break. Jumping right in to another 365 can be a bit much. That’s not to say that people don’t do it, and be successful. Many people absolutely love doing 365 photo projects, and have consistently done it for several years at a stretch.
Personally, I like a variety of challenges in my photographic journey. After completing a 365 photo project in 2014, I took a break and focused on other things. Now I am ready to get back into the game and will be starting a 365 photo series in 2016 on my Instagram. Join me if you want to and lets motivate each other to take a photo a day for 365 days!